• Barbara Le Gallez
    11
    Hello. Have you recent experience of work being done by any of the four UK bellhanging firms (Taylors, Whites, Higby's, Nicholson's)? What was your opinion of their quality and value for money?
    I'm asking because my home tower is planning an augmentation soon, and the ringers need to advise the PCC whose quote to accept.
    If you don't wish to post openly, I am sure we can work out some way for you to contact me off-list.
    Thank you, Barbara Le Gallez, Landbeach, Cambs
  • Alison Hodge
    23
    Barbara - I do not intend to comment on specific companies, but what I advise is go back to your request for advice and compare the quotes in detail. Look at each item side by side so that you can see the similarities and differences. How does each contractor meet the requirements that you requested?

    I hope that you have found the information about bell projects on the CCCBR website here: https://cccbr.org.uk/resources/stewardship-and-management/
    under the Major Projects tab.
    In particular, the "Top Tips for bell projects" document summarises key points to consider.

    If you would like more help, then contact me by email () - we may be able to help regarding comparing the contracts factually, but will not give opinions about the bell hangers. As you know, it is the church that makes the final decision on the contract.
  • Robert
    1
    I agree . You need to be very specific with what you want and don't be afraid to go back and discuss quotes so you are sure you are comparing like with like in terms of the work being undertaken. Also I would avoid quotes with exclusions. I.e work to cut pockets in tower walls or installing lifting beams. If you have a builder doing part of the work and a bellhanger doing the rest and there is a problem you can end up with an argument over who is responsible. If it's all down to the hangers then when a problem arises its down to them.
  • Neal Dodge
    1
    There’s only one bell hanger (as far as I’m aware) that routinly carries out building work like cutting pockets so to advise excluding others rather narrows the field.
    Having an separate builder carry out the works shouldn’t be particularly onerous, both hanger and builder will likely be experienced in working alongside other trades.

    Your association bell advisor should be able to help?
  • Barbara Le Gallez
    11
    Thank you for your advice. I would love to hear from somebody who has actual recent experience of having work carried out by a specific company. So, if that is you, please do email me directly at . Your comments will be shared with our band and the PCC but will otherwise be in confidence. Thank you.
  • A J Barnfield
    21
    Question (relating to things like cutting sockets and installing lifting beams) would you not just let the whole lot to a main contractor and let them sub out any bits that they did not fancy/could not do and make sure that the contract makes the main contractor responsible for setting the spec for, and monitoring, the subbies work, and paying them?
  • Barbara Le Gallez
    11
    Hello AJB, sorry for not replying earlier - have only just revisited this forum. The answer to your question is - yes, we have a very strong preference for doing so. However, of the four UK bellhanging firms, two specifically state that they will not do this. So really we are trying to choose between the other two. Best wishes, Barbara
  • John Harrison
    13
    When we needed pockets for an extra beam the work was done by the same specialist company that had already done work on other parts of the church. The bell hangers specified the hols. The builder cut them, the bellhangers installe the beam (bolted across the base of the existing beams and extending into the pockets) and the builder then filled the pockets (to a spec detemined by the conservation architect).
  • Barbara Le Gallez
    11
    Thank you John. Did you find that the specialist company and architect were exceedingly expensive? That is my impression, which is why I feel it would be a bad idea to use them. Did you also find that the PCC found it rather time-consuming to co-ordinate these extra people? Our PCC seem to experience great difficulty getting companies to respond to them at all, which again is why I think it would be a bad idea to put this extra burden on them.
  • John Harrison
    13
    contractual interfaces do add complication, and need managing, but this wasn't just an isolated project. The architect (conservation surveyor) has far wider responsibility, including quinquennial and related work. The specialist builder was already doing a lot of other work on the church both before and after the bells project.
    In the later project to install a screen between the ringing room and nave, we did give a prime contract to the glass company who was responsible for subcontracting the joiner and scaffolder, although we initially anticipated needing to employ separate contractors.
    Full details on the tower website http://allsaintswokignhambells.org.uk/ASProject/
  • Barbara Le Gallez
    11
    Thanks John, very interesting account.
  • Philip Pratt
    12
    In a world where a lot of church and bell-ringing projects are entirely lead by volunteers, anyone charging a fee relating to their time to a project appears expensive. As you have also alluded to, the PCC finds it rather time-consuming to be managing projects and pushing them through, and isn't this something that you'd be tasking your paid professional to undertake? Everyone's time is proportional to a value of money, even if the time is given for free, in real terms there's a value to put to it. Rather than look at the hourly rate or fee the professional is looking to charge, why not consider the outputs they will achieve in that time with their the suite of skills they have bringing projects together? They are bound to add value to your project and even raise or consider things that you may overlook.

    If it were a paid professional, like an architect, would they too have issues with getting contractors to get back to them, is it the history the church has with local contractors that means they are not interested?

    What you've identified is a level of scope in your project, managing various suppliers/subcontractors which you believe could save you money if you have the time/skills to undertake it, whilst taking on the risk of it not all going swimmingly. If you were to let the entire project to the main contractor, who then subs it out, the main contractor has to do all that project management and interfaces, generally which they will build into the costs somewhere, so it's not free for them to undertake it. As part of a paid professional undertaking the management of the project, they'll often add a mark-up percentage to the subcontract values, and/or book a fixed fee for the project. The issue that most bell-hanging projects have with this, is that Ringing Association/Guild grants don't always provide grants for the overheads managing the project, even though they're essential to the success of the project - they'll often only provide a grant for the hardware element only.
  • Barbara Le Gallez
    11
    Thanks Philip, I take your point that nothing is free! I suppose ideally the church would have a competent person working for it as project manager (either one of us, possessing the necessary skills, or an employed person). Sadly, none of us has the necessary skills. And the church architect, from what I have heard, does not "fight our corner", so I do not think he would be a suitable person at all. So, unless there happens to be someone who earns their living by being a qualified project manager specialising in church projects, I don't think there is anyone available. So we might as well pay the main contractor to project manage the subcontractors, since we're going to have to pay someone to do it!
  • Philip Pratt
    12
    Hello Barbara, There are one or two people that are ringers, and have worked in the trade that do project management/coordination. The main person that springs to mind is Andrew Higson, his company is called Exaudite http://www.exaudite.co.uk/ and is probably worth a discussion with him. He has managed a number of bell restoration projects, including the new ring of 12 in Cheltenham. He would also help with understanding your requirements and adjusting the works required from the different contractors before your PCC places the orders with them.
  • Barbara Le Gallez
    11
    Thank you Philip, I had no idea that this service existed. I will discuss it with the team and see what they think.
  • Samuel Nankervis
    3
    Comparing quotes for the PCC to understand - I started by writing down everything included in the most expensive quote, which made it much clearer what was not included in the other quotes, to help compare like for like.
    Subcontractors - (drilling/cutting sockets for the new bell frame) first see if the bell companies have anyone they would recommend, as these are much more likely to understand exactly what needs to be done and how.
  • Barbara Le Gallez
    11
    Part of the project is to install sound control, as the bells are uncomfortably loud outside. However - there are already swift nest boxes installed in the belfry windows. Has anyone experience of this situation, please? If so, what did you do - did you a) install the sound control on the inside of the swift nest boxes or b) cut holes in the sound control to fit around the boxes? Thanks.
  • John Harrison
    13
    'in the belfry windows' is a bit vague. Are they within the depth of the louvres or protruding on the inside? And if they protrude, is there still space to fit sound control behind? If there's a ledge to build on that helps. Otherwise you have to fix everything on the inner surface. But there are lots of other factors to consider, for example: How big an opening do you need? How far in will the shutters protrude, and is there adequate clearance?
    When we installed sound control in 1982 things were fairly easy. The open area we needed wasn't too big since the louvres were already partly bricked up, and we had a ledge to build on. See: http://www.allsaintswokinghambells.org.uk/ASTower/BellChamber/SoundControl/index.html#Pictures
  • Barbara Le Gallez
    11
    Thanks John, yes layout is complicated and there are many factors to consider. Don't know whether to DIY or just stump up for a contractor to solve all the problems!
  • Samuel Nankervis
    3
    Being on the coast in Cornwall, I blocked up the louvers on the West side with a sheet of ply board screwed in place, as this was the direction of the prevailing wind and rain, and looked down on the pub and some houses. A few yrs. later, we were getting Jackdaws bringing in heaps of twigs for nesting all along the side of the frame, so when they finished nesting, I removed all the material (several bags) and fastened a stainless steel mesh (from a builders merchants) across the louvers, fastened in place by wood battons screwed around the edges. A bit pricey, but will last for ever, whilst maintaining good ventilation in the tower to minimise dampness on the bell frame.
  • Barbara Le Gallez
    11
    Thank you Sam (is that what you like to be called?), that's very helpful. Did you find that blocking up just the one side caused an appreciable diminution of sound on that side? I.e. did the sound just go round? Did you use marine ply?
  • Samuel Nankervis
    3
    Hi Barbara, no, I did not use marine ply as the tower is fairly dry, and it's been in place for may be 20yrs. and still looks good. marine ply would be better though, but is more expensive, so check on cost, and whether one sheet of ply per set of louvers is enough? Marine ply I think comes in smaller sheets.
    This will lessen the noise of the bells on the sides you block up, without having any detremental effect on the other sides. but also bear in mind not to over do this, (even if you do have a complaint about the noise) as this needs to be balanced with the vast majority of the population who enjoy listening to them.
    Sam
  • Alison Hodge
    23
    Barbara - you may get more replies related to swift boxes and sound control if you start a new discussion, rather than continuing this one long one.

    There is specialist information about swift boxes on websites such as those of the RSPB but of course they do not specifically consider bells! Logically, i would not like to be a swift in a box enclosed on the noisy side of the sound control! But I am not an expert on these installations.

    Interestingly, there are at least 2 recent articles on swifts in towers in The Ringing World - see 2019 page 1172, and 2018 page 1224

    The CCCBR also has information about sound control generally on the website here (towards the bottom of the Infrastructure tab):
    https://cccbr.org.uk/resources/stewardship-and-management/
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